Tag Archives: IPM

Rodent, Bayer, Digital pest management

Trapped Checking Traps: An Expert Details How Current Pest Monitoring Programs can Let You Down

Rodent, Bayer, Digital pest management

“Simply put, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) means that it’s no longer acceptable to have a reactive food safety policy. There is a new emphasis on proactive measures to safeguard public health.

That said, whether your pest control is managed in-house, or you hire a professional pest management company, odds are “service” is focused on the rote practice of trap checking, which is neither cost-effective, nor does it provide the holistic IPM strategy that focuses on proactive inspections that ensure FSMA compliance.

You should be challenging your service provider, holding them to the standard of this new obligation. To understand the state of the industry and what food managers need to be considering when it comes to rodents, I contacted Richard Kammerling, founder of RK Pest Management Services, whose half-century of experience gives him a unique vantage on the hallmarks of an expertly managed food safety program – past, present and future.

Joe Barile: How would you characterize the current state of the industry?

Richard Kammerling: The food industry has a problem where they sometimes assume everything is fine even when it’s not. And sometimes they’re not willing to pay the price to make sure their program is working properly until they have a real problem. One of the biggest problems in the food industry is they underestimate the time that is needed to properly perform a pest management program. The food industry tends to be reactive rather than proactive. If they’re not given the information to know a condition could be or is an issue, then they don’t address it as such.

Barile: So, what should food managers be requiring from service providers?

Kammerling: Service providers should be acting as diagnosticians. Say, through trap-checking, we found one mouse in a trap. Is it only one mouse? Or is it an infestation? What are the conditions that caused it? Most of the pest control industry is going around the perimeters, but they’re not doing the entire scope of the food warehouse.
If you can find a pest-vulnerable condition and eliminate it, that’s the key to an effective IPM program. Collecting data can help you find some of these conditions, but analysis of that data and inspections are key to a pest management program – and that’s what food safety managers should be demanding of their pest managers, internal or external. Most pest control today is based on trap checking and does not leave enough time for inspections or data analysis….”

Read the full interview, “Industry Insights, The Future of Rodent Control“.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Product Contaminators: Filthy Flies and Creeping Cockroaches

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Remember the childhood game “Red Rover?” The one where a line of kids lock arms to form an unbreakable connection, then other kids try to run through the arm barrier to break through? With enough time, these runners always eventually break through the tough barrier, and the first to do so is a winner!

Turns out, this childhood game is similar to a much less enjoyable occurrence: Pests invading your facility. You’ve taken the time to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program to form a robust barrier around the outside of your facility. And yet, pests will inevitably find a way in if they’re allowed the same circumstances over time.

That’s because pests are clever, resilient and persistent. It isn’t a matter of “if” pests will try to find a way into your facility, it’s a matter of “when” they’ll find a way in. When they do find a way inside, these pests need to be removed quickly or they can create significant contamination problems for your product.

All pests carry some risk if they get into your facility. Some may simply pose contamination issues while others are able to spread disease-causing pathogens.

In fact, some of these disease-spreading pests can be quite small, making them more likely to find a way through your facility’s external barriers and contaminate product.

That’s bad news for your business’s bottom line. Imagine the cost of losing an entire shipment to contamination. Or even worse, imagine the impact on your business if a supply chain partner farther down the line received this contaminated product and didn’t notice, allowing it to make it all the way to the consumer! The resulting public outcry could devastate a brand.

So, you must be proactive in your efforts to prevent these contaminators. Two of the most common across the United States—flies and cockroaches—love to live and feed on waste and decaying organic matter, which is rife with disease-inducing pathogens. After flies and cockroaches touch or land on these substances, they pick up microscopic pathogens and then move on in search of other things they need to survive. Those three needs: Food, water and shelter.

Unfortunately, your facility has all three of these needs, meaning any food processing facility is a top target for inquisitive pests. Knowing these pests can cause diseases like typhoid fever, dysentery and cholera makes it even more important to proactively prevent them from coming into contact with your product.

Luckily (or unluckily!), there is a lot of overlap in the types of food sources attractive to both flies and cockroaches. To understand how to prevent these pests from thriving inside your facility, it helps to know what makes them tick.

Why do flies and cockroaches like food processing facilities?

To answer this question, it’s important to look at the biology of these pests. While there are some differences between fly and cockroach species, they’re all attracted to the same general food source: Organic matter.

Fruits, vegetables, meats, grains—you name it, these pests would love to eat it. The presence of these organic foods alone will be enough to draw in flies and cockroaches. But these pests, especially cockroaches, prefer to stay hidden in cracks and crevices when not searching for food.

Cockroaches and flies aren’t picky eaters, so nearly any food is a food source for them. That’s why they can both be found around waste areas, whether that’s the lingering garbage left in the break room trash can or the overflowing dumpster in the back. These locations offer organic materials aplenty, and both flies and cockroaches are going to feel quite comfortable calling these areas home. Some flies are even notoriously able to thrive off the organic material built up in drains!

Once they have found a home in or around the facility, flies and cockroaches alike are going to start reproducing. Both have incredibly high reproduction rates, so a few of these pests can turn into an infestation in no time.

Cockroaches (depending on the species, of course) lay dozens of oothecae over the course of their lifetime, and each of these oothecae—or egg cases—can produce a dozen or more immature cockroaches that can emerge in less than a month. They take a few months to develop but they are feeding that whole time! Flies, on the other hand, have even more daunting reproduction rates. One female housefly is capable of laying up to 150 eggs in a batch, and she’ll produce five or six of these batches over the course of a few days! Within a day after the eggs are laid, maggots will hatch and slowly begin to mature. Within one to two weeks after hatching, these maggots will turn into pupae and then mature into adult houseflies.

It becomes easy to see why flies and cockroaches would love a food processing facility. Simply put, there are plenty of food sources and hiding spots for reproduction to occur. Therefore, careful monitoring procedures and preventive strategies need to be in place and be robust enough.

How can facilities protect themselves from filthy pest pressure?

Roaches and flies are constant scavengers, so any open doors or windows are an invitation for pests to come in. Roaches are also known to squeeze their way through tiny gaps in the exterior of a facility. Loading docks and break rooms are high-risk areas, too, as they’re prime harborage areas with plenty of hiding places and potential food sources. Even clutter like cardboard boxes collecting in a corner can be a perfect home and food source for cockroaches!

When reviewing the food safety plan for potential improvements, look at the proactive sanitation and exclusion tactics and ask yourself if these are effectively preventing pest issues before they become a problem.

Here are a few examples of sanitation and exclusion tactics every facility should be doing to prevent filthy pests like flies and cockroaches:

  • Make sanitation a priority with your staff. Make a sanitation schedule with daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Assign cleaning roles to your employees based on where they work around the facility, and make sure they know what to do if they spot a pest somewhere. A pest sighting log in a centralized location helps. Don’t forget to clean up break rooms and offices.
  • Use automatic doors and check door seals. End the “open-door policy” for pests. Any entry point is a risk, so reduce the amount of time and number of access points for pests however you can. Air curtains can also help push pests away from frequently used doors, as they push air out of the facility when doors are opened. As a result, any nearby flying pests are blown away from the facility.
  • Seal cracks and crevices. Walk around and inspect the outside (and inside!) of the facility at least quarterly. Using a waterproof caulk or other sealant, cover any gaps or openings you can find. Remember: Some pests only need a few centimeters to squeeze into a building.
  • Inspect incoming and outgoing shipments. Vehicles transporting goods can become infested with pests, too. Inspecting shipments not only reduces the chances of pests being brought in by staff unintentionally, but in partnership with supply chain partners it can help you detect the source of an infestation more effectively to get your operations back up and running quicker.
  • Store food securely. Make sure products are stored off of the floor and are sealed when possible. In kitchens and other areas where employees store food, use airtight containers and empty trash bins at least daily to avoid food waste becoming a target.
  • Don’t forget to look up. Many issues could start on the roof and roof vents, and air-handling units can serve as access points for many pests.

Pest prevention doesn’t have to be hard, but you do have to be organized and, most importantly, proactive. If you take the time to create a strong food safety plan focused on the proactive prevention of pests, you’re going to better protect your business’s bottom line and brand reputation. And, perhaps even better, having a strong plan in place will give you some peace of mind knowing your products are protected from invasive, filthy pest contaminators.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Invisible Invaders: How Tiny Beetles Destroy Stored Products

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Most likely, you’re going to do everything in your power to set up a proactive prevention plan to block out this virus. You’d probably want a new policy for inspecting incoming shipments. You’d probably want to add monitoring devices and install automated devices to ensure the virus is blocked out. And, you’d probably start checking the stored products you already have safely tucked away.

But instead of an imaginary virus, know that beetles can actually do this! Beetles, specifically those that fall into the category of stored product pests, actively seek out and feed on the types of goods that food processing facilities work so hard to protect. While some of these beetles prefer certain types of foods over others (grains are a pest favorite, for example) they’d love to find a home in your facility.

While it may seem like an invisible, pervasive virus is a far cry from some beetles running around your facility, know that this comparison isn’t a stretch. The beetles we’ll look at in this article are all four millimeters long or smaller, so it’s not going to be the type of pest that you happen to notice and can quickly remove. These types of beetles are known for their ability to stealthily invade stored products and feed, reproduce and survive right there in the product. If your first thought is, “well, I’ve never seen one of those,” then you need to inspect your products. And soon.

In fact, one study from the University of Wisconsin and the USDA found that “stored product pests can damage, contaminate, or consume as much as 10% of the total food produced in the U.S. alone, while in developing countries that rate has been estimated at 50% or more.”

Stored product pests are prevalent. And beetles are some of the most common we find in the United States, with multiple different species plaguing food processing and storage facilities. Because the most common species vary from region to region, it often takes the insight of a trained pest management professional to correctly identify one of these pests.

That said, let’s dive in a little deeper on just a few of these beetles to better understand what attracts them and how they operate to get to your stored product.

Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles

Similar in appearance and in their habits, cigarette and drugstore beetles are two common beetles found in food processing facilities. Generally, about two to three millimeters in length, these light brown bugs are tough to spot and a pain to remove if not detected quickly.

Both beetles are known for their ability to chew into stored products and penetrate through some packaging. Once inside, they feed and spread to other nearby food sources over time. And when it comes time to reproduce, both species of beetle will lay eggs directly on or in food products. The larvae then go on to spend most of their young lives thriving while surrounded by a consistent food source until they reach adulthood. At that point, the infestation is going to spread to neighboring products and the population will start to increase at an accelerating rate.

Despite their naming, both beetles eat a variety of foods including cereal, coffee beans, spices, rice, dried fruits, animal-based products and pet food. If there are any small holes in packaging—even cardboard—it’s possible that cigarette or drugstore beetles are present.

Flour Beetles

Reddish-brown in color and about three to four millimeters in length, flour beetles are longer, narrower beetles than the cigarette and drugstore beetles. Flour beetles are so small, it usually takes a magnifying glass to tell the difference between the different species (red and confused).

Another one of the common pests found in stored products, flour beetles can live for nearly a year and deposit hundreds of eggs in that time span. Once they find a way to wriggle themselves into packaging, flour beetles contaminate goods with shed skin and frass (bug poop!). If allowed to feed and thrive for too long, they’ll go from product to product and infest an entire room full of goods. Everything they’ve infested will be unfit to eat and will have to be thrown out, which can prove costly.

The good news (if you can call it that) when it comes to flour beetles is that they’re a bit pickier than other stored product pests. They typically feed on the broken bits and dust from grain that collect in bags of grains, flour, cereal and pasta.

Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

These beetles thrive in the cracks and crevices in foods, wedging their flat bodies through miniscule gaps. Ranging about two to three millimeters in length, these long, thin beetles usually get into products when they’re being transported. Often, the pests are brought indoors unknowingly, where they begin to spread their influence. One tainted item can lead to a massive infestation down the road.

These grain beetles are also known to cause mold problems due to moisture buildup. Frankly, beetle-laden products often wind up having moisture buildup and mold, which can attract other pests to the scene if allowed to persist. In their adult form, sawtoothed grain beetles are known to travel quite a bit, so it’s possible you may spot them on the floor or in cracks and crevices near food storage areas.

The food preference for sawtoothed grain beetles is a little different from the previous two groups of invasive beetles, as they prefer to feed on food items like birdseed, cereal, chocolate, dried fruit, flour, pasta, pet food, nuts, tobacco and yeast.

Proactive IPM and Prevention Tips

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the signs that stored product beetles might be present at your facility, let’s discuss the many things you can do to proactively prevent them.

First and foremost, a variety of tactics should be incorporated as part of your Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Under FSMA regulations, this is something every facility should have at this point. It emphasizes a proactive approach to pest management, which is something you’ll need to implement immediately if you want to decrease the risk of a costly pest infestation.

So, let’s look at some specific things you and your pest management professional can implement.

Initially, closely inspect the facility and set up an ongoing plan to inspect incoming shipments for signs of stored product pests like live insects, webbing on products and damaged kernels. FSMA mandates that considerations for your supply chain are in place, so talk to your supply chain partners about inspecting all incoming and outgoing shipments to ensure pest issues can be identified promptly and traced back to the source.

You should also use monitoring devices to help you keep a pulse on pest populations around the facility, which is especially helpful for larger buildings and warehouses. Pheromone traps are especially helpful when monitoring for stored product pests and can help you detect any of the invasive beetle species mentioned previously. Other tools like fly lights and glue traps can help you track other pest trends over time. Once placed, monitoring devices will offer insight as to which areas in your facility are most at-risk for pest problems. Then, you can work on improving the exclusion and sanitation tactics in those areas to reduce the risk of invasive pests.

Also, use temperature as a tactic. These beetles (and other stored product pests) cannot live in extreme temperatures. The fact is that most stored product insects can’t develop below 15o C (60o F). While this isn’t an option for all facilities, even fans and lower humidity can help.

Finally, create a sanitation schedule. This should involve as many staff members as possible and include daily, weekly and monthly duties. Perhaps most importantly, clean up product spills immediately and watch for damp or wet spots that may encourage mold. While it’s impossible to clean up everything, the more you limit the amount and access to food, the lower the chances of insects detecting and pursuing those food sources.

So, be proactive in protecting your stored products from beetles! They’ll prove costly if allowed to destroy and contaminate product, so don’t wait to improve your food safety plan. This threat is worse than an imaginary virus, because it’s very, very real.

Chelle Hartzer, Orkin
Bug Bytes

How to Prepare for an Audit at Any Time

By Chelle Hartzer
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Chelle Hartzer, Orkin

Everybody knows to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. But being prepared for an unannounced audit isn’t something that can be done overnight, especially when it comes to pest management.

That’s why it’s important to carefully review your food safety plan and the specific pest management measures contained within it. Pest management can account for up to 20% of an audit, so it can make or break a facility’s score. There’s no room to gamble—between federal regulations, audit regulations, internal standards and customer expectations, you need to stay in compliance.

With FSMA in full effect, it’s important to become familiar with the regulations found on the FDA’s website if you haven’t yet. Reacting to problems isn’t good enough anymore, as many of these regulations emphasize a preventive strategy. The FDA has the authority to mandate recalls, shut down facilities and more. If you need help determining the rest of your facility’s food safety program, the FDA has a helpful downloadable food safety plan builder.

To make sure pest issues don’t spoil your score during an unannounced audit, remember that pest management is an ongoing partnership that requires your entire staff’s participation. It’s something you should plan for as part of regular maintenance and sanitation schedules.

The first step is to establish an integrated pest management (IPM) program. This plan should be developed with your pest management provider and should be a comprehensive look at all factors that may contribute to pest issues. It should be designed to reduce pest pressure around a facility, address all sanitation and exclusion issues, actively monitor for pests and set action levels.

The goal is to proactively deal with pests and prevent as many issues as possible. An IPM program is tailored to meet a facility’s specific needs based on a wide range of different factors. An IPM program uses pesticide treatments as a final step once all conducive conditions have been identified and addressed. The program should adapt as both the facility and the pest pressures change over time.

Implement regular training for all employees and encourage participation. Something as simple as a poster featuring the “most wanted pests” in break rooms or locker rooms can help train personnel to recognize the signs of potential pests around the facility. Make it clear that each employee is a key player in your program and empower them to speak up should they see something. Ensure you have a pest-sighting log and all personnel are aware of where it is and how to report issues. Their help will be vital to point out issues, ensure sanitation is adequate and identify problem areas on a daily basis. Your pest control professional can host a training meeting for you and your staff if needed.

When implementing an IPM program at your facility, there are numerous preventive tactics you can implement and perform on a regular basis.

  • Monitoring devices: Using devices like fly lights, rodent traps and bait stations can help reduce pest populations and keep them away from food products. These monitoring devices also offer insight as to how many and what kinds of pests are plaguing the facility, which is valuable information when determining a strategy to resolve existing pest problems and minimize pest pressure.
  • Sanitation: Any food source, including the foods you are producing and storing, can draw pests. Clean up product spills quickly. Don’t forget about food in employee areas such as break rooms and locker rooms. While it is impossible to clean up every food particle (you are producing food at your site!), you can work to limit the access pests have to food sources.
  • Take out the trash: Emptying trash daily and cleaning out the trash bins helps prevent the buildup of organic material, which can attract many different pests. Make sure dumpsters are placed away from the building if possible and always keep them closed. Don’t a smelly garbage or a full bin—when in doubt, take it out!
  • Seal cracks and crevices: Keep a constant watch around the facility for any openings big enough for a pest to fit through. Remind employees that rats only need a quarter-size hole to squeeze into a facility, while mice only need an opening the size of a dime. And that’s not the worst of it; cockroaches only need one sixteenth of an inch, making it vital to seal off any openings found. Don’t forget to look at your facility from the outside as well!
  • Install automatic doors: Often, open doorways are prime locations for pests to enter. All doors should remain closed when not in use. Especially in docking areas when loading/unloading, try to open dock doors only when needed and keep the gap from the truck to doorway sealed off if possible. Installing automatic doors can reduce the likelihood flying pests inside the facility by ensuring doors stay closed when not in use.
  • Inspect shipments: Anytime a new shipment arrives, it should be inspected closely for pests. Stored product pests could be in products and spread to others in close proximity quickly, so catching them early is key. Don’t forget to inspect shipping containers for outgoing product too, because if your product goes in an infested truck, your product will be considered infested!
  • Remove clutter: Many pests love to hide under clutter. Remove unused equipment, product and packaging—especially cardboard boxes—to avoid giving pests a convenient hiding place. Don’t forget about clutter outdoors, too.
  • Outdoor concerns: Sanitation is important outside the facility as well. Make sure to remove clutter and garbage on the ground and near the facility to help reduce pest pressure. Many pest issues start outside, so removing clutter outdoors means fewer pests to potentially get into your site. In addition, installing sodium vapor lights instead of mercury vapor lights near the building will attract fewer insects.
  • Install air curtains: The perfect complement to automatic doors, air curtains create positive airflow—or air flowing outwards from building entrances—to push pests away from the building.

Auditors are looking for a number of things when it comes to pest management. One important item they want to see is the record of past pest issues and the steps taken to resolve them. You and your pest management provider should ensure all records are up to date and accurate with pest trends that can be explained.

Documentation is perhaps the most critical part of a strong IPM program. It ensures your efforts are captured, organized and available should an unexpected auditor arrive on site.

The following are six main documents to have ready at all times.

  1. Food Safety Plan
    Perhaps the most important piece of documentation, the overarching food safety plan is absolutely necessary to have on hand. The plan should be a comprehensive document describing all activities to ensure the safety of food during manufacturing, processing, packing and holding. It should include a list of potential hazards, preventive controls and corrective actions to mitigate those risks, along with monitoring and verification procedures.
  2. List of Service Changes
    An IPM program needs to be dynamic. But when modifications are made to meet the ever-changing needs of a facility, make sure to keep careful records of how and why the plans have changed.
  3. List of Monitoring Devices/Traps
    Your plan must include a map documenting all monitoring equipment, traps and any other devices used around the facility to reduce pest pressure. Note the locations and activity levels of each. The trend report from the collected data can show important information and help make management decisions. Your pest management professionals can help with this, as they should be noting activity each time they inspect your property. Auditors will want to see the historical data of pest monitoring devices and the corrective actions associated with any issues. Monitoring devices work as a great early warning system for developing pest issues and are a great proactive approach.
  4. Annual Assessments
    Each year, you should review your food safety plan and current IPM program. These annual assessments will note problem areas and set goals for the coming year. Auditors will be looking for these yearly assessments, and if you’re able to demonstrate year-over-year improvement then you’ll give your facility a better chance at a great audit score.
  5. Sighting Reports
    If a pest is spotted within the facility, employees should document it on the pest-sighting log. The report should include information about the location of the pest within the facility, who found it and the number of pests spotted. Capturing the pest is ideal, but it’s not always feasible to do so. In that case, photo evidence helps with identification, so obtain a close-up picture of the pest(s) if possible. Ensure the pest is identified and any corrective actions documented.
  6. Proof of Training/Certification
    You know that your pest management professional is trained and certified, but an auditor doesn’t. To demonstrate your provider’s expertise, keep a valid license or certification document, written evidence of the pest management professional’s training, and documentation of internal training on IPM and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).

According to FSMA guidelines, a strong food safety plan identifies potential hazards to food products, and focuses on a preventive, risk-based strategy instead of a reactionary one. With an IPM program in place and detailed documentation of actions taken, you’ll be prepared anytime an auditor decides to “pop in” for a “quick chat.”

Tim Husen, Rollins Technical Services
Bug Bytes

Sanitation Solutions for Pest Problems

By Tim Husen, Ph.D.
1 Comment
Tim Husen, Rollins Technical Services

It’s no surprise that food manufacturing and processing environments are naturally vulnerable to food safety threats. Food processing environments have all the things a pest needs to thrive: Food, water and shelter. And if poor sanitation is added to the mix, pests can find your food processing plant absolutely irresistible.

An unkempt facility can attract flies, ants, cockroaches and other unwanted common pests such as rodents. All of these common pests could put you or your facility at risk during your next audit.

The good news is pest-related sanitation issues are preventable through proactive and holistic preventive treatment plans. It’s important to establish proper sanitation processes and procedures so that over time, you avoid or reduce the occurrence of pest problems that could cost you major points on an audit and potentially compromise your products.

Many food processing facilities employ integrated pest management (IPM), an approach that helps prevent pest activity before it occurs and uses chemical treatments only as a last resort. The goal with these types of treatments is to give facility managers tools to use in advance of their next audit to stay ahead of pests, to teach employees good practices and to avoid problems before they happen. A good IPM program includes careful documentation of pest issues and the conducive conditions relating to them, as well as any corrective actions taken to resolve them. This documentation is incredibly important not just in solving pest problems, but also in its relevance to FSMA regulations.

When talking to pest management providers, remember that a “one-size fits all” strategy often doesn’t work, so expect your pest control company to recommend a customized plan. Different environments have different “hot spots” (areas where pests typically are present if the conditions are right) and face different pest pressures. However, there are a few key best practices that can be applied to any facility to help protect against pests.

The following guidelines will help to minimize pest activity and prepare for your facility’s next audit.

1. Educate and Enlist Your Employees in the Fight Against Pests

The first step to establishing your sanitation plan is enlisting your staff. One of the strongest building blocks in your defense against pest activity is sanitation. This key component of your IPM plan begins with the vigilance of your employees. Sanitation and pest management aren’t one-and-done tasks. They’re ongoing and you’ll get the best results when the entire staff is on board.

How can they help? Your employees are often the first to notice any potential signs of existing problems, so it’s important to educate them on hot spots where pests could live, what signs they should look for, and what to do if they see a pest issue. Once your employees understand the importance of sanitation, set a zero-tolerance policy for spills, debris and waste. If employees spot a pest, make sure they understand the protocols for documenting its presence. Consider implementing daily, weekly and monthly sanitation routines in addition to an annual deep cleaning.

Finally, enlist your employees to help keep common areas clean, from break rooms to locker rooms. Establish processes to clean up dirty dishes and drink spills, and empty full trash bins immediately. Don’t forget about cleaning the bins themselves! Also, make sure that common refrigerators aren’t filled with past-expiration lunches or snacks. If you’re finding it tough to get employees to participate, most pest management providers will offer a free education program to make employees aware of potential risks and what they can do to help. Sometimes it can help employees to hear from the experts.

2. What’s on the Inside Counts

As the saying goes, what’s on the inside really matters. This is true for the interior sanitation of your processing facility, too. There are a few particularly vulnerable hotspots to be conscious of when putting together your sanitation plan, especially the production floor, the storage areas and the receiving areas.

For obvious reasons, the production floor is one of the most important areas of focus for your sanitation program. Any hygiene issue could directly impact and expose your food products to contamination. Pests love to make their homes in big equipment that is often difficult to access for cleaning. Improper sanitation may lead to bacteria growth on the production line, which poses a major food safety threat. Create a schedule so that all equipment and machinery are sanitized regularly, and don’t forget about paying extra attention to those out-of-sight areas.

Drain flies and other pests live around drains and drain lids. Both should be scrubbed and sanitized regularly to prevent buildup of grease and other gunk that can attract pests. Organic, professional cleaning solutions are a great option to break down tough stains and grime on floors and around drains. These organic cleaners use naturally occurring enzymes and beneficial bacteria to degrade stains, grime and other organic matter build up, which helps reduce the likelihood of drain flies and other pests.

Storage areas are also prone to attracting pests and the potential bacteria they harbor. These cluttered spaces can get filled with extra boxes and other debris, and are perfect locations for pests to hide. Keep these areas clean and clear of clutter so pests have fewer areas to seek shelter and reproduce.

Cockroaches especially love cardboard boxes, so take those to recycling facilities regularly. Remove any equipment that is not being used. If you have re-sealable containers, clean out all the containers before placing new products inside. All containers should be tightly sealed and kept six inches off the floor and 18 inches away from walls. You can also affix mops and other types of cleaning equipment to the wall. Keeping them off the ground will keep them dry and prevent them from sitting in standing water, which is a major hot spot for fly breeding and bacteria build up.

Don’t forget that pests are experts at squeezing under receiving doors and sneaking onto shipments. To prevent unwanted stowaways, ensure your exterior doors form a tight seal when closed and always give delivery trucks and incoming shipments a thorough inspection for pest activity. Pests love to sneak into any opening they can find, so keep building exits, loading docks and other entrances closed as much as possible. Install weather stripping and door sweeps to keep pests out by creating a tight seal around openings. Believe it or not, rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter, mice through a gap the size of a dime, and crawling insect pests through spaces barely noticeable to the human eye. For other cracks and crevices, use weather-resistant sealants to close any openings and consider installing metal mesh for an extra layer of protection against rodents that can gnaw openings to get inside.

3. Don’t Forget the Great Outdoors

To keep your exterior spic and span, create and maintain a regular sanitation schedule for your building’s exterior so it doesn’t become a haven for pests.

Regular pressure washings of sidewalks and walls will knock away any debris or build-up on exterior surfaces and could help remove any bird droppings around the property that could be brought inside by foot traffic. While it seems like a no-brainer, keep dumpsters and recycling collections as far away from facilities as possible, and make sure they are cleaned and sanitized frequently. And like interior cleaning best practices, don’t neglect areas above or out of the line of sight like gutters and rooftop ledges. Sometimes, leaves, standing water and other debris can build up over time, which provides breeding areas and shelter for pests—­especially mosquitoes.

Did you know that flies are not just attracted to food processing facilities because of food smells, but also for their exterior lighting? Flies and other flying insects are attracted to light and may use it for orientation. Mercury-vapor lighting is especially attractive to flies, so consider swapping mercury-vapor lamps next to entryways with sodium-vapor lights or LEDs. And to lure flies away from your building, place your facility’s mercury-vapor lighting at least 100 feet from entrances. It is often important to remember that the best option is always to direct lighting towards a building rather than mount lighting on it.

Good outdoor pest maintenance also includes landscaping. Trim your trees often and keep plants at least 12 inches away from your building. This decreases the chance of pests using vegetation as breeding or nesting grounds and the chances they’ll get access to your facility. Standing water often becomes a breeding site and moisture source that could provide pests like flies, mosquitoes and rodents with water necessary for survival. Remove any standing water around your building to prevent this and remove any reason for those pests to stick around. Look for stagnant water in gutters, ponds, birdbaths, water fountains and any other places that water could sit for more than a week without moving.

These proactive pest management tips will be useful in protecting your building and products from food safety threats. If there are any tasks that require additional help, consider talking to your pest management provider about creating an IPM plan. They will walk through your facility with you to identify any hotspots and suggest potential corrective actions—you’ll be glad you did when it’s time for your next audit.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Stored Product Pests May Be Lurking in Your Facility

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

Pests can be sneaky. Many can compromise food products without anyone realizing they’re present. This is bad news for food processing facilities where an abundance of food products can translate into high pest pressure.

Beetles and moths are two of the main offenders in this environment and are referred to as stored product pests. These creatures can cause safety and legal concerns if they find their way into products, as they are quite adept at doing. They can damage packaging and cause product contamination or alter the taste of products when they secrete chemicals from their bodies, as many do.

This is not only a concern for your business’s reputation and bottom line, but could cost you major points on your next audit. Especially under the new FSMA regulations, prevention must be the emphasis in all U.S. facilities. This represents a shift from previous regulations as the new ones require risk-based preventive controls.

Integrate pest management
Does your company have an integrated pest management plan? Image courtesy of Orkin

The best way to prevent stored product pests and adhere to FSMA regulations is by implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program. IPM programs focus on proactively preventing pests by inspection, monitoring and eliminating conditions that attract or harbor them using tactics like exclusion and sanitation, using chemicals only as a last resort. Under FSMA, you need to identify potential roadblocks and actively work to remove them. Showing constant improvement over time is an absolute must.

These programs also call for comprehensive documentation to monitor pest issues and ensure improvements are made over time. Auditors love to see documentation, as it shows that you are consciously working to strengthen your pest management efforts with continual improvement. If your facility doesn’t have an IPM program, it’s time to make a change sooner rather than later.

To successfully prevent stored product pests, you need to understand what they are and why they are attracted to your facility.

Types of Stored Product Pests

There are many different species of stored product pests, but they can be classified by four main categories based on their biology and habits:

  1. Scavengers: Eat just about anything, even if other pests have been there first. Pests in this category include the red flour beetle and sawtoothed grain beetle.
  2. External feeders: Feed on the exterior of cereal (grain) and kernel products and work their way inside. Pests in this category include Indian meal moths and cigarette beetles.
  3. Internal feeders: Lay eggs in the grain and feed on kernels from inside. Pests in this category include granary weevils, lesser grain borers and Angoumois grain moths.
  4. Secondary feeders: Eat from the outside in and consume moldy and damp food products. Pests in this category include spider beetles and fungus beetles.

How do you know if you have stored product pests? An infestation becomes apparent when the pests can be observed crawling or flying around. At this point, it’s important to identify the specific species that is plaguing your facility, as this will dictate the appropriate treatment method.  A trained professional can help correctly identify the species and recommend the best course of action to resolve the problem. Stored product pests reproduce quickly, so it’s critical to address any infestations before they have time to multiply and contaminate additional product.

The most common stored product pests are:

  • Sawtoothed Grain Beetle. Can burrow directly through boxes and packaging, so even sealed foods are at risk. They prefer processed food products like bran, chocolate, oatmeal, sugar and macaroni.
  • Indian Meal Moths. One of the most common pests for food processing facilities, the larva feeds on a large variety of different products. Some distinctive signs of an infestation are silk webbing and frass near the surface of the product.
  • Cigarette and Drugstore Beetles. Also able to chew through packaging, these beetles prefer pet food, spices, tobacco and any packaged food.
  • Granary and Rice Weevils. Prefer whole grains or seed products like popcorn, birdseed and nuts. They are recognizable by a snout protruding from their head and their reddish-brown bodies. Grains infested by weevils will be hollow and have small holes.
  • Spider Beetles. Similar to small spiders in appearance, they prefer grains, seeds, dried fruits and meats. They often accompany a rodent infestation because they prefer grain products that are old and moist.

Prevention Tactics

To help prevent stored product pests, incorporate the following tactics as part of your IPM program:

  • Closely inspect incoming shipments and packages. Look for the signs of stored product pests, like webbing, larvae and live adult insects. Check for signs of damage, especially for holes that can be caused by boring pests. To monitor for pests entering in this way, a quality assurance sample should be placed in a closed, labeled plastic container for later observations to see if any activity is noticed. This will give you a better idea if pests are present and what types may be being introduced via the incoming shipment.
  • Use of pheromone traps. These are the best tool to monitor the pest activity. These traps can also be placed in transportation vehicles to see if the trucks have a resident stored product pest population.
  • Use temperature as a repellant. Most stored product pests cannot live in extreme temperatures. If storage rooms can be maintained at 60°F or lower, stored product pests won’t be able to establish themselves inside.
  • Practice the first-in, first-out (FIFO) approach for products. Deteriorating products are an invitation to stored product pests, so make sure that older products go first and remove any with damages. It is also best to store products off the floor and more than 18 inches from walls, as it makes it easier to clean the surrounding area.
  • Create a sanitation schedule. Keeping a facility free of food debris will go a long way in eliminating attractants for pests. Clean up product spills immediately, and vacuum and wipe down everything on a regular basis. Don’t forget the cracks and crevices!

Keep in mind that being proactive is an important part of this entire process. If you see something, say something. Resolving pest issues as quickly as possible will be beneficial in the long run, as infestations are naturally more difficult to remove and could cost your facility dearly during an audit. A pest management professional will be able to point out the hot spots around a facility and can help to ensure that proactive prevention tactics are in place before anything gets out of hand. If any products are compromised, discard them immediately.

Pest Management: A Team Effort

The stakes are high in the food processing environment, which means pest control must be a priority. The most successful pest control programs are a team effort. Form a strong partnership with your pest management provider and work closely with them throughout the year to proactively prevent pest problems. Reach out to them early and often if you suspect any issues.

It’s also important that your entire staff is aware of pest management initiatives and tactics, which is why many pest management providers offer free staff training courses upon request. Take advantage of the resources available through your provider.

Working with a pest management provider to create a customized, IPM plan will help prevent pests and in turn protect the quality of your products and your business.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

Rodents: The Winter Invaders

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

As temperatures plummet throughout the United States, rodents become more active in seeking out a warm shelter for the winter. Unfortunately, food processing facilities are perfect for rodents because they have everything that rodents need to survive.

Rodents are scavengers, and as a result they like to have all of their survival needs in close proximity at all times. Once they enter your facility, their three main needs are food, water and shelter, so it’s easy to see why food processing facilities are an appealing target.

Before anything else, you’ll want to work with your pest management professional to make sure that your facility has an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to help keep pests out. An IPM program is tailor-made for each facility and focuses on environmentally friendly prevention and exclusion tactics to protect your facility, using chemicals only as a last resort. A strong program can help prevent a number of different pests from getting into your facility, even rodents. This preventive approach also compliments the HARPC under FSMA.

Adaptable and clever, rodents can be a pain if they are able to get inside. Rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, while mice can fit through a hole the size of a dime. Rodents are also known to chew on openings around a facility in order to make them large enough to squeeze through. Even the smallest of cracks and gaps can become a pathway inside to a wandering rodent.

There are significant health and safety risks associated with rodents that should make you carefully consider your current pest management program and its tactics for keeping them out. Rodents are known carriers of more than 35 different diseases including Hantavirus, salmonellosis, jaundice and plague. All of these are incredibly dangerous to have anywhere near your product, so the best solution is to prevent rodents from getting inside in the first place.

Also, rodents have tiny bladders and frequent bowel movements, so they leave behind a trail of urination and defecation everywhere they go. They’ll expend their waste, which naturally contains pathogens that spread disease, dozens of times a day.

Because of their roaming nature and constant waste expulsion, there are some telltale signs of rodents that can help you detect them before it becomes a major issue. It’s important that you educate your staff about these signs and contact your pest management professional to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

Signs of Rodent Activity

  • Urine marks and droppings. These can be found nearly anywhere that a rodent has been. Look for little brown pellets and yellowish discoloring, which will show best under UV light. A black light inspection can help determine if there is an infestation.
  • Noises in the walls, basement or ceiling. Gnawing, clawing and scratching noises can be a sign that a rodent might be running around, especially if heard at night. Rodents prefer to stay out of sight when hunting for food, so you won’t often notice them during times of high activity around a facility.
  • Rub marks around corners and baseboards. As they look for food and try to remain unseen, rodents will most often stick close to walls and corners. When they do skitter around, they’ll leave behind brownish marks that can be seen if closely inspected.
  • Musky odors. When rodents congregate in a certain area, their nesting sites will begin to give off a detectable odor especially if the rodents are reproducing.

Issues with rodents can get out of hand quickly as rodents reproduce rapidly. As soon as a rodent feels safe and has warmth and shelter, it will start the reproduction process. Mice produce about eight litters every year with between four and seven pups in a litter, while rats produce about six litters every year with between eight and twelve pups in a litter. Some rodents can then reach sexual maturity in as little as 35 days after birth, which shows how quickly rodents can multiply within a facility.

Make sure to educate staff on your IPM program, and be sure to establish the proper protocol in the case of a pest sighting. It’s important to note when, where and how many pests were spotted, as this information is valuable when working to resolve a problem.

The key is to stop rodents before a problem becomes an infestation, but trying to catch and remove rodents yourself can make them wise to trapping and baiting techniques. Remember that rodents are quite clever and learn from past experiences. To avoid making things worse in the long run, contact a pest management professional if you think that you have a rodent problem, especially if it might be an infestation.

If you are looking for some ways to make a difference on your own, there are certainly some things that you can do. Treat your facility like a fortress, and every good fortress needs to be as impenetrable as possible. Below are some exclusion and prevention tactics that you can start doing immediately to make your facility as strong as possible.

Rodent Prevention Tips

  • Seal the exterior. Walk around the exterior of your facility and check for any holes or cracks the size of a dime or larger. Pay especially close attention to pipes and other penetrations that may have open spaces around where they enter the building.
  • Remove clutter. Rodents use a variety of materials to build their nests, so areas fraught with clutter will look appealing to them, especially if it’s materials like cardboard boxes and paper.
  • Store food effectively. Keep all food products tightly sealed and off of the floor, as rodents have an easier time detecting and getting into food if it isn’t elevated. Also, containers made of plastic or metal are preferable so that they won’t get chewed through.
  • Clean up. Food and drink particles from spills or waste bins will attract rodents, so clean up and take out the trash regularly. Regular sweeping and mopping is an absolute must, especially around trash receptacles.
  • Trim vegetation. Plants need to be cut back at least two feet from the outside of your building and grass needs to be kept short. Vegetation gives rodents a place to hide, so if not trimmed back it can serve as a “jumping off” point to help rodents get indoors.

It’s also important to consider the environment surrounding your facility, as this can be a major factor in the amount of pest pressure that you experience. For rodents, cities are often hot spots, as other factors like construction and greater waste output from a higher concentration of people can increase pest pressure on a facility.

If you’re worried that your facility might be at risk of a rodent infestation, contact your pest management provider and get an assessment. It’s always better to be prepared with an IPM program ahead of time, as these critters aren’t going to be easy to remove from your facility once they’ve settled inside.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

From HACCP to HARPC, and Integrating Pest Management

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
3 Comments
Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

September 19, 2016 is a date that many of you probably had circled on your calendars. It marked the first date in which many food processing companies had to be in compliance with the FSMA preventive controls final rule.

It’s okay if you’re still revising your food safety plan. The regulations are so sweeping that some companies are still struggling to figure out if their plans are in compliance. At the heart of this law is a change in the philosophy of how we deal with contamination. Now, the focus is on preventing contamination rather than responding to it after it occurs.

This proactive approach to safety must be kept in mind when discussing how food safety plan requirements have changed. For many food manufacturing facilities, it means a change from HACCP to HARPC.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, should be more familiar to you. First developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s to provide safe food for astronauts in the U.S. space program, HACCP became the global standard for food safety in the 1980s, as large, multinational companies sought to ensure that their supply chains were safe.

HACCP evolved over the years into an effective, efficient and comprehensive food safety management approach. The system addresses food safety through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.

The seven principles of HACCP include:

  1. Conduct a hazard analysis
  2. Identify critical control points
  3. Set critical limits
  4. Establish monitoring actions
  5. Determine corrective actions
  6. Develop verification procedures
  7. Institute a record-keeping system

How are HACCP and HARPC different?

Following the passage of FSMA, the FDA instituted a new set of food safety standards, known as Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls (HARPC).

HARPC shouldn’t be seen as a replacement of HACCP standards. Rather, it’s an evolution of them. The following are some key changes.

You Must Anticipate Potential Hazards. One of the big changes in moving to HARPC standards is that your food safety plan must identify any and all reasonably foreseeable food safety hazards and include risk-based preventive controls for them. This moves beyond HACCP’s critical control points and asks that food processors look at how to minimize risk from the second food enters their facility to the second it ships out.

This includes naturally occurring hazards as well as hazards that can be intentionally or unintentionally introduced to the facility. The potential hazards that have expanded under HARPC include:

  • Biological, chemical, physical and radiological hazards
  • Natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens and unapproved food and color additives
  • Naturally occurring hazards or unintentionally introduced hazards
  • Intentionally introduced hazards (including acts of terrorism)

You should review the potential hazards—both seen and unseen—that could impact your facility to determine the risks that you should analyze for your plan.

HARPC Applies to Almost All Food Processing Facilities. The HACCP standards generally did not apply to all food processors. HARPC, however, covers many more U.S. processors. There are six major exceptions, however.

  • Food companies under the exclusive jurisdiction of the USDA
  • Companies subject to the FDA’s new Standards for Produce Safety authorities
  • Facilities that are subject to and comply with FDA’s seafood and juice HACCP regulations
  • Low-acid and acidified canned food processors
  • Companies defined as “small” or “very small” businesses
  • Companies with a previous three-year average product value of less than $500,000

Do these changes mean that your existing food safety plan needs to be scrapped? Not at all. An existing HACCP plan can be modified with the help of a Preventive Control Qualified Individual (another new requirement) to comply with HARPC guidelines. This person needs to be intimately familiar with potential hazards and the risk-based preventive controls for them.

This may sound daunting at first, but moving to HARPC from HACCP will be an easier shift than starting from scratch. The key adjustments that you would need to focus on include identifying risk-based preventive controls for the hazards previously mentioned. Just remember, these hazards should be expanded to include both naturally occurring and unintentionally introduced hazards.

How Does Integrated Pest Management Fit into a Food Safety Plan?

Much like HARPC, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) focuses on being proactive. It emphasizes prevention, focusing on facility maintenance and sanitation, before considering chemical options for pest management.

An IPM plan is benchmarked with regular monitoring and analysis of effectiveness. This may seem cumbersome, but one shouldn’t overlook the value of documentation as a management tool. Collecting data and putting it in context with detailed analysis can be an effective way to prioritize your pest control efforts.

Detailed analysis accounts for things such as normal seasonal cycles, deficiencies in maintenance, exclusion, sanitation and harborages, just to name a few. This analysis can also help improve pest control efforts by prioritizing areas needing attention, especially when your staff is limited by time or resources.

Integrating IPM into your HARPC plan should include analyzing the risks of what could encourage pests to enter your facility, such as doors left open or incoming product shipments. Consider your pest control provider an expert source in how to assess all risks associated with pests and how to establish preventive controls for them.

Despite preventative efforts, unexpected pests will be inevitable. More emphasis will be placed on establishing action thresholds for different pests. This can be a problematic topic, because there are not scientific or broadly accepted threshold values for food processing pests.

Every facility, and often zones within facilities, will likely be different. Identify logical zones—ingredients, processing, packaging and warehousing—and sensible threshold values for each key pest in these zones. Furthermore, establish what the appropriate response should be at certain thresholds. The escalating responses to different levels of pest activity often include things such as automatic authority for certain limited types of pesticide application, more intensive monitoring and inspection, and, of course, higher management notifications, which might lead to more extensive measures.

IPM plans should be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure your program remains as effective as possible. Written food safety plans that follow the HARPC approach and comply with the FSMA rule should be reanalyzed whenever there is a significant change at the facility that might increase a known hazard or introduce a new one. Review the plan at least every three years, if no significant changes occur.

Even if your facility’s deadline for compliance with HARPC standards is a year or two away, now is the time to take a look at your plan and make sure you’re in compliance.

Zia Siddiqi, Orkin
Bug Bytes

How to Find the Right Pest Management Partner

By Zia Siddiqi, Ph.D.
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Zia Siddiqi, Orkin

When you choose a new vendor to partner with you, the decision is always important. Every vendor plays a role in your business and bottom line.

Some vendors, like pest control providers, can protect your brand and even help boost your reputation in the industry. When you factor in everything your pest control program can affect, it’s clear that picking the right pest management provider is one of the most important vendor decisions you’ll have to make.

Under FSMA, food processing facilities must execute proactive pest control programs and documentation efforts that not only follow and but also implement a risk-based prevention program to protect their product and consumer base
Under FSMA, food processing facilities must implement proactive pest control programs  and a risk-based prevention program to protect their product and consumer base. Image courtesy of Orkin.

Consider how pest management can impact your audit scores, especially when you’re expected to be audit-ready at any time. The success of your third-party audit hinges on documentation, and the pest management portion can make all the difference in your score, accounting for up to 20%. FSMA requires food processing facilities to execute proactive pest control programs and documentation efforts that not only follow and but also implement a risk-based prevention program to protect their product and consumer base. Just one low score can cause your customers to lose trust in your business—and if they pull their support, you could see a major impact on your balance sheet.

The safety of your products and even the health of your employees are also at stake. Cockroaches and ants can pick up and transfer harmful bacteria. Flies can spread disease-causing organisms when they land—and they land frequently, it can lead to them leaving their traces in an abundance of places.

Then there are rodents, which can also cause serious health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rats and mice are known to spread bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, as well as more than 35 diseases worldwide, such as Hantavirus.

A Blueprint for Success

From its impact on audit scores to its role in abating health concerns to brand protection, pest control should be a priority for any food processing facility. There are several best practices to follow, most of them falling under the umbrella of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is the preferred proactive pest management practice in the food processing business, and it can help meet and exceed the requirements of industry auditors.

IPM programs are ongoing, comprehensive and well-documented, focusing on risk-based preventive strategies like sanitation and facility maintenance to help prevent pest activity. They’re also customizable based on your property and the pests you face.

It’s essential to find the right, licensed and experienced pest management professional who will partner with you and your staff to implement a customized IPM program for your facility and help keep pest problems away. When starting your search for a pest management partner, be sure to ask about IPM. One-size-fits-all pest management solutions are simply not effective, so look for a provider who can tailor an IPM program specifically to your needs.

When searching for a pest management partner, look for one that stands out with the following guidelines.

Talk to your peers. If you’re looking for pest management recommendations, start by talking to your industry colleagues about the successes—or challenges—they’ve had with their vendors. If you’re a member of a larger network or GPO, you may have a preferred provider in which to start your search.

Start with an inspection. Once you have a list of options to check out, it’s time to put them to the test. As IPM programs are customizable, insist that your prospects inspect your facility to determine the challenges you face and the services you need.

Get the details in writing. Remember, FSMA requires written risk-based preventive food safety plans that detail likely hazards, corrective actions and results. With this in mind, your pest management professional should thoroughly document any service visits and corrective actions.

Documenting your pest management plan does more than fulfill the FSMA requirement. The best pest management providers will document their every move, using the information to determine pest trends, which can aid in decisions about how to best manage pest activity going forward. These records should be kept on-site for any surprise audits.

Ask for audit help. In addition to documentation, your pest management professional should work with you to ensure all documents are in proper order and audit-ready at any time. Look for a provider that can help you prepare for the third-party auditor and food safety standards with which your facility is required to comply, and even provide on-site support the day of your audit.

Think about your entire staff. One of the most overlooked variables when choosing a pest management provider isn’t how the company works in your facility, it’s how it works with your staff. For your new pest management program to be effective, your staff has to buy in—and your new provider can help.

Your employees play an important role in reporting pest sightings and keeping your facility clean. With this in mind, make sure to ask about resources that your pest management professional can offer your staff. Many offer staff training and educational resources like tip sheets and checklists, and often at no extra cost.

Add accountability, establish thresholds. You may pick an outstanding pest management partner, but ideal results won’t happen overnight. Depending on your facility, creating a pest-free environment can be difficult, even with the best of help.

Progress is achievable and quantifiable when you have pest thresholds. Thresholds dictate how much and what kind of pest activity is acceptable before corrective actions need to be taken, and they are best set by working with your pest control professional because several factors can come into play.

Older facilities or buildings in environments more conducive to pest activity, such as areas near water, locales in warm environments or heavily wooded spaces, may face more pest pressures than newer establishments. Your pest management professional may want to counter these challenges with exclusion recommendations that can include extensive building maintenance and repairs.

If you’re in a newer building and don’t currently battle any present pest issues, it may be perfectly reasonable to move forward with a “one pest is one too many” threshold. To make sure your program stays this effective, your provider may need to adjust tactics of your IPM program over time.

Even with a sound IPM plan, however, if you are currently battling pests like cockroaches, flies or ants, reaching your threshold goals will take time. Work with your pest management provider to create a timeline for steady and reasonable improvement.

Once you choose a pest management partner, keep the lines of communication open and establish roles for everyone involved. Set benchmarks for your pest management program and specific times throughout the year to evaluate the program’s success and areas of improvement with your provider.

Keep all of this in mind, and you can help build a solid, long-lasting partnership. As a result, pest sightings can fall as your audit scores rise.

Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC
Bug Bytes

Don’t Welcome Pests into Your Facility This Winter

By Ron Harrison, Ph.D.
3 Comments
Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services, Orkin, LLC

Days are now shorter, and temperatures are slowly dropping in most parts of the country. It is the time of year when individuals look to spend a little more time indoors and a little less time outdoors. However, did you know we aren’t the only ones looking for relief from the cold?

Similarly to us, this is the time of year when certain pests look for a nice, warm home to spend the winter months. The downside for food facilities is that they offer everything pests need for survival—food, water and harborage.

In fact, food facilities can face numerous pest challenges during the colder months, including ants, cockroaches, stored product pests and flies. Additionally, the most common and challenging winter pests are rodents. Due to their ability to squeeze through small spaces and adapt to many different environments, they can be a facility’s worst nightmare.

Don't let rats and mice threaten food safety audit scores. Image courtesy of Orkin
Don’t let rats and mice threaten food safety audit scores. All images courtesy of Orkin

The presence of rats and mice can lead to food contamination and can threaten your food safety audit scores, reputation and bottom line. Rodents are known carriers of deadly neurological and respiratory diseases like lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Ticks, mites and fleas can feed on infected rodents and transmit diseases like pox, plague and typhus indirectly to humans—putting not only employees in your facility at risk, but also customers.

Rodents can be tough to control and are very adaptable at living indoors. Some mice that take shelter inside due to weather can survive indefinitely as indoor mice. In fact, there is a possibility rodents may have already taken shelter by now, so it’s important to talk with your pest management professional about common areas where rodents may be hiding.

As you winterize your facility, it’s important to keep rodents and other pests in mind. A proactive approach to facility maintenance, as well as an effective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, can help keep pests out and your food product and business secure.

The following tips will help keep your facility off pests’ radars this winter.

Stay Vigilant in Monitoring for Pest Activity

Vigilant, ongoing monitoring is a cornerstone of an effective IPM program. With this strategy in place, there are many tactics you and your staff can use.

  • Identify “hot spots”. Work closely with your pest management professional to identify the most common places pests reside in around your property. These can include loading docks, utility rooms, employee break rooms, dumpsters and trash cans, storage rooms and behind any heavy, immobile pieces of equipment. By identifying these hot spots, you’ll be able to prevent pests from entering your facility.
  • Involve your employees. Educate your staff on the pests themselves, as well as the conditions that attract them, and encourage your employees to report any signs of problems. Utilize a reputable pest management company to provide your employees with this training—many providers offer training at no extra cost.
Look for gaps and fill them to keep those pesky critters out!
Look for gaps and fill them to keep those pesky critters out!

Strengthen Your Facility’s Perimeter

While certain pests can hitch a ride into your facility via shipments and even on people, the biggest pest threats start on the outside. With this in mind, you can take fight pests outside by strengthening your perimeter.

  • Look for and fill cracks and crevices. Crawling pests like to creep inside through small openings. Additionally, rodents can squeeze through holes the size of a quarter, mice through dime-sized openings that create gaps barely noticeable to the human eye. Regularly inspect the exterior of your facility for any cracks that may develop and pay close attention to openings that can form around pipes and utility penetrations. Don’t forget to seal any holes in exterior walls with water-resistant sealant and steel or metal mesh.
  • Eliminate clutter and attractants. Rodents may burrow or live up to 100 yards away from your structure, and flies, ants and cockroaches are also on the hunt for easy meals that can often be found on the property. Keep trash handling areas free of clutter, and clean up any uncovered garbage or standing water outside. Also, work with your waste management company to ensure they clean and switch out dumpsters regularly.
  • Keep landscaping off your building. Pests will often use vegetation as staging and feeding sites.  Keep trees trimmed and plants at least 12 inches from your building, and remove leaves quickly so pests cannot use them for cover. As an extra step, consider installing a two-foot wide gravel strip around the perimeter of the building. Think of these exclusion techniques as digging a moat around your castle.
  • For rodents, bait stations can be set outside. Work with your pest management provider to place tamper-resistant bait stations around the exterior of the facility. However, do not place the stations near doors or entryways, as they can attract pests into the facility. Be sure to maintain an up-to-date map of bait stations and record activity at each station to determine the source of rodent pressure and target future treatments accordingly.
Prevent fruit flies by keeping employee break rooms clear of food remnants and tightly sealing garbage cans.
Prevent fruit flies by keeping employee break rooms clear of food remnants and tightly sealing garbage cans.

Reinforce Clean Conditions Inside

Once you set up an outside defense against pests, you can double down on your pest management efforts by taking a few proactive measures inside as well. The key to keeping pests from infesting your facility is removing incentives for them to go inside in the first place.

  • Inspect incoming shipments. When you are not receiving materials, keep loading bay doors closed—make sure the doors close securely so that pests cannot sneak under them. Inspect incoming raw materials, packaging and truck trailers for signs of infestation.
  • Reduce potential food sources inside your facility. Employee break rooms should be clear of any food remnants, and garbage cans with food and other waste need to be kept tightly sealed.
  • Monitor the plant floor. Sanitize drains and equipment with an organic cleaner to eliminate the residue that pests can feed on. With colder temperatures, pipes can break or crack, so ensure plumbing is also maintained properly to prevent leakage and property damage. Monitor for spills and clean them immediately, as pests only need a small amount of moisture to survive.

By putting proactive defenses into place, your facility can enjoy the winter seasons with a decreased likelihood of the appearance of unwanted visitors like rodents, ants, cockroaches, stored product pests and flies. Talk with your pest management professional about these steps and other tactics you can put in place to keep your facility safe against overwintering pests and relegate them to the cold.